By: Cal Meacham
Writing metal record reviews is usually Meehan’s forte but the new Baroness record(s) has my open ears (and mind).
As I alluded to, I haven’t spent much time in the past 10 years or so listening to metal records. A suggestion from a friend a few weeks ago brought the new record(s) from Baroness into my sites. The suggestion was made to me based on my love of 90’s post-rock and my disappointment by the lack of interesting records this year. With that out-of-the-way lets dive into Yellow and Green.
When I think of traditional metal the words phaser pedal and layered harmonies don’t usually come to mind. At least back in my “metal” years, there was a lot of detuned bass heavy guitar chords and some form of yelling and or screaming so Yellow/Green has already thrown me for a loop. The phaser pedals and oft played acoustic guitars have me thinking that Baroness have a little 70’s hard rock and prog rock in them. But 70’s hard rock is not their sound, they have their own brand of “smarter” more palatable (to the masses) metal, it just has its less appealing points.
Broken up into 2 separate records Yellow and Green with each record having its own feeling and shift, this is an ambitious outing. Both start with an instrumental opener and while the Yellow rocks along, the latter poses a little differently. Sounding more ripped out of a progressive rock catalog, the Green album sounds closer to Explosions In The Sky then it does Sepultura.
The most interesting moments happen when they aren’t pounding out hard rock riffs. The acoustic Twinkler which sounds crazily like a Kansas riff and the Green albums best track, instrumental Strechmarker are beautiful tracks that are toned down. As are the transition instrumentals and openers to each disc, the band shows a fondness for the soft dreamy parts of song writing. That is not to say that the album lacks great rockers as Board Up The House and The Line Between proudly display but the band certainly shines when they turn off the distortion and layer guitars instead. I imagine To High To Die could be found in one of the band members record collection and a subtle adoration of the Brother’s Kirkwood can’t be ignored. It’s hard not to think of The Meat Puppets Never To Be Found when listening to Cocainium as the mid tempo jam bops along with doubled lead vocals and Curt Kirkwood style riffage.
My issue with album is that I can never quite shake the generic cheese factor. For every MNTS (which has some great post-rock inspired guitar lines with a shake of Meat Puppets ) there is a Take My Bones Away which feels more inspiration rock than all out head smashing rock. When lead singer John Baizley belts out the chorus I snicker a bit because it sounds a bit contrived. Instead of angry to match the chug of the song, it sounds shoehorned because they couldn’t come up with better words. These vocal deficiencies pop up all over the record and what could be great hard rock turns into Bungle In The Jungle (no offense to the Tull).
Much will be made of this being a double album but the length of an album should have no bearing on the quality of music. While this double album never seems to have “filler”, it also fades into the background easily on several occasions. Each dueling lead breakdown or innovative bridge is met with a paint by numbers chorus or limp vocal melody. Regardless of its length or minor vocal quibble this is a very solid effort and has me sold on metal again.
Score – 7.0/10